The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that Russia, China and North Korea had agreed on the need for five-way talks including the United States and South Korea to end tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Deputy foreign ministers from Russia, North Korea and China had met in Moscow on Tuesday and expressed support for talks in such a format to normalize relations, the ministry said in a statement, as reported by Reuters. China, Russia and North Korea believe it is necessary to consider adjusting U.N. sanctions against North Korea at an appropriate time, China's foreign ministry said yesterday.
Meanwhile, South Korea is considering lifting some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea to create more momentum for diplomacy aimed at improving relations and defusing the nuclear crisis, the South's foreign minister said yesterday.
During a parliamentary audit of her ministry, Kang Kyung-wha said the government is reviewing whether to lift sanctions South Korea imposed on the North in 2010 following a deadly attack on a warship that killed 45 South Korean sailors, as reported by the Associated Press.
South Korea then effectively shut down all cross-border economic cooperation except for a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, which was shuttered in February 2016 after a North Korean nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. The so-called "May 24 measures" of 2010 also banned North Korea from using shipping lanes in South Korean territory.
A move by South Korea to lift its unilateral sanctions would have little immediate effect since U.S.-led international sanctions remain in place. But it's clear the South's liberal government is preparing to restart joint economic projects if the larger nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea begin yielding results.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has described inter-Korean engagement as crucial to resolving the nuclear standoff. A large number of South Korean business leaders accompanied Moon last month to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, where he and leader Kim Jong Un agreed to normalize operations at the Kaesong factory park and resume joint tours to North Korea when possible, voicing optimism the international sanctions could end and allow such projects.
The North and South also announced measures to reduce conventional military threats, such as creating buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the border. The North also said it would dismantle its main nuclear facility in Nyongbyon if the United States takes unspecified corresponding measures.
Despite the current mood of detente and negotiation between the Koreas, the removal of sanctions will be a difficult decision for Seoul's government.
South Koreans are deeply divided along ideological lines and many people still harbor deep anger over North Korea's 1950 attack that started the Korean War, killing and injuring millions. There has been occasional bloodshed ever since — the 2010 attack on the warship was followed months later by North Korea's shelling of a South Korean border island that killed four and gutted homes.
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